By Virginia Califano
For World War II veteran Joey Etta, a trip to Washington, D.C. is always special. Etta, along with eight other local veterans from the Cold Spring VFW, viewed D.C.’s war monuments, museums, and memorials last week. Etta and the veterans saw their sacrifices, and those of their friends who didn’t make it back home, immortalized in our nation’s capital.
The trip began when veterans of WW II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War made their way onto a big Leprechaun Bus early on last Wednesday’s misty morning. They each brought along a family companion. Beaming with smiles, the veterans discussed their past experiences in Washington.
Terry Lahey, a Korean War veteran who served overseas from 1951-1952, recently went down to D.C. in the Hudson Valley Honor Flight on September 10, which marked the 1,000th veteran flown down to see the monuments. Lahey described the experience as “touching,” especially when guests gathered to cheer for him and his fellow veterans at the airport as they departed and returned.
Wednesday’s trip may not have been the first, but it still sparked joy in the veterans. “I went down many times before, recently with about 250 guys last year,” said Etta. When asked if he was excited for this trip, Etta exclaimed, “Yes. We saw the whole thing before, but it’s great.” His son Steve accompanied him on his many journeys, including this one.
Etta considers his time in World War II as “three separate wars,” he told the PCNR, though he was overseas throughout it all. The first took place in Africa, beginning on November 8, 1942. Etta was injured in this conflict, after he woke up pinned beneath his truck. His second war was “a short one, only 37 days in Sicily,” he said. The third was perhaps the greatest challenge. On June 6, 1944, Etta was among the brave soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy, after 34 days at sea.
At the time, Etta didn’t realize the significance of what he was doing at D-Day. “I was trying to keep alive, that’s all. It was hard. It was very hard to see who got killed. To see your friends, ones that you have … then all of a sudden you have no friends.”
Etta saw those friends again in D.C., now in the form of gold stars that mark the price of freedom at the World War II Memorial. It is a somber, yet satisfying experience. “It’s just the greatest. We had a great time,” he said of last week’s trip.
The group, made up of veterans Ed Engelbride, Joe Etta, Ray Jones, Tom Kivel, Terry Lahey, Mike Mastrolia, Steve Merando, Ed Murphy, and Phil Schatzle along with their companions, arrived in our nation’s capital after a six-hour bus ride on Wednesday. The group’s first destination was the Navy museum. They also visited the Air and Space museum. Then they made their way to the Korean and Vietnam war memorials.
Friday morning, they visited Arlington National Cemetery and the World War II Memorial, before returning home on Saturday.